Delta Air Lines to Upgrade Wi-Fi Systems on Many Airplanes — Resulting in Expanded Coverage Areas and Faster Speeds

A n announcement recently released from Delta Air Lines revealed the latest plans to upgrade Wi-Fi service on greater than 250 aircraft with flights and routes over large bodies of water by converting from an air-to-ground system to a satellite-based system starting in 2016, resulting in greater coverage extended beyond the shores of North America; as well as improved connection and broadband speeds of up to 20 times faster.

The most significant improvement of the expanded coverage will be on airplanes operated by Delta Air Lines on long-haul domestic routes as well as to and from destinations served in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The satellite-based system will be installed on the following types of aircraft — many of which are already equipped with the slower terrestrial system:

  • Boeing 757-300
  • Boeing 757-200
  • Boeing 737-900ER
  • Boeing 737-800
  • Airbus A319
  • Airbus A321 when they enter the fleet beginning in 2016


Additionally, the following aircraft — operating primarily on short-haul domestic flights within the United States — are slated to be equipped with an improved version of air-to-ground technology by Gogo with significantly upgraded speeds as it becomes available:

  • Boeing 717-200
  • McDonnell Douglas MD-88
  • McDonnell Douglas MD-90


The technology of the satellite-based system is known as 2Ku. As I first reported back on March 31, 2014, Ku-band satellite Wi-Fi service has been launched on international flights to Narita International Airport in Tokyo on Boeing 747-400 aircraft operated by Delta Air Lines — starting with both flight 283 departing from Los Angeles and flight 295 departing from Atlanta almost one year ago.

Installation of Ku-band satellite Wi-Fi has already been completed on greater than 33 percent of the international fleet of aircraft operated by Delta Air Lines; and will be 85 percent complete by the end of 2015. In mid-2016, the entire fleet operating on international long-haul routes will offer Wi-Fi, including the following aircraft:

  • Boeing 777
  • Boeing 767
  • Boeing 747
  • Airbus A330
  • Boeing 757 aircraft used on transoceanic flights
  • Airbus A330-900Neo as these aircraft are introduced to the fleet
  • Airbus A350-900 as these aircraft are introduced to the fleet


The addition of in-flight Internet on nearly 150 aircraft will expand the number of aircraft operated by Delta Air Lines equipped with Wi-Fi to approximately 1,000 — offering the most global Wi-Fi access of any carrier — but it was not the first carrier to offer it. Back in January of 2013, United Airlines had introduced satellite-based Wi-Fi internet technology aboard the first of its international aircraft — a Boeing 747 airplane equipped with the Ku-band satellite technology of Panasonic Avionics Corporation — becoming the first international carrier based in the United States to offer its passengers the ability to stay connected while traveling on long-haul routes across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

It will be interesting to see which service is actually better as the competition heats up between Gogo and Panasonic Avionics Corporation.

Last year, introductory pricing options to access Wi-Fi service on international flights began with one hour passes for laptop users as low as $14.00 and $8.00 for mobile users; or a flight pass option — which will keep you connected throughout your entire flight except when traveling over certain countries — starting at $24.95 for laptop users and $14.95 for mobile users. It is uncertain at this time as to what the pricing will be for when the newer technology is installed.

However, do not be surprised if Delta Air Lines offers variable pricing to access the Ku-band satellite Wi-Fi. FlyerTalk members have recently reported different pricing schemes pertaining to transpacific flights in accessing satellite-based Wi-Fi on flights operated by United Airlines.

Speaking of Gogo, you still have a few more days to enter this contest to win an Ultimate Road Warrior Kit, which will complement the improved Wi-Fi service to be offered by Delta Air Lines.

Graphic courtesy of Delta Air Lines.

2 thoughts on “Delta Air Lines to Upgrade Wi-Fi Systems on Many Airplanes — Resulting in Expanded Coverage Areas and Faster Speeds”

  1. Santastico says:

    Flew SFO-MSP on Delta yesterday and Gogo was basically useless. I redeemed one of my Gogo All Day Passes to realize I could not download any emails, send/receive messages or access the web. I was able to have a Live Chat with a Gogo agent that checked my flight and told me there were many users and the speed indeed was unbearable. He refunded my pass to my account. During the chat with the agent our connection was dropped at least 40 times. They better improve the service otherwise nobody will pay for dial-up speeds in the sky.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Hopefully the service will indeed improve with the announced new technology, Santastico.

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